LABOR’S loudest voice on same-sex marriage, Tanya Plibersek, has told the Star Observer she remains committed to her marriage equality bill despite micro-party NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm grabbing the limelight with plans for his own bill.
Plibersek’s comments follow several days of attention for the Liberal Democrat leader who, following his maiden speech in which he extolled his support for same-sex marriage, has announced plans to introduce a marriage equality bill by September.
“It’s time. Australia is ready for this. And coming from the perspective of a relatively conservative, straight, middle-aged senator like me, whose vote is important to the government, I think the time is right,” he said.
The pro-gun senator has indicated he will vote against the government on key issues — such as the reintroduction of temporary protection visas — if marriage equality does not get across the line.
He also challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbot to “look his sister in the eye”— out gay Sydney councillor Christine Forster — and tell her she doesn’t deserve equal rights.
However, the libertarian politician has indicated his bill would enshrine the right of celebrants, and others, to refuse to take part in same-sex weddings if it was contrary to their beliefs.
Plibersek, the Deputy Opposition Leader and federal Labor MP for Sydney (pictured above), had been thought the most likely candidate to introduce a bill to amend the marriage act so two people of the same sex can marry.
She suggested to the Star Observer she would be willing to open a dialogue with Leyonhjelm.
“I will work with marriage equality advocates to determine the best time to introduce the bill,” she said.
However, Plibersek’s preference is for a member of the Coalition to back her proposal: “My bill stands ready, and I again call on Tony Abbott to allow his partyroom a conscience vote, and for a Liberal or National MP to stand up for their beliefs and co-sponsor my bill.”
A survey released by Australian Marriage Equality has shown a record level of 72 per cent of Australians now support extending marriage rights to same-sex couples while 77 per cent believe Coalition members should be allowed a conscience vote on the matter.
“As the surveys we’ve seen show, marriage equality’s time has well and truly come,” Plibersek said.
Nevertheless, she warned against introducing a bill too soon, particularly without Coalition MPs being given a free vote: “I won’t bring a bill to the Parliament on marriage equality that’s doomed to fail— that doesn’t make any sense.”